Bouncing Back Strong: Royals rebound from first loss, win big over Morristown

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Lesson learned. Experienced applied.

After losing their first game of the season to Class 2A No. 8 Triton Central, 69-43, on Saturday, the Eastern Hancock Royals didn’t spend too much time sulking.

Instead, they counted down the days until their next home game, and the visiting Morristown Yellow Jackets paid the price Tuesday night.

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Six-foot freshman Ruby White scored a game-high 16 points, followed by 14 points from sophomore guard Grace Stapleton as the 2A Royals bounced back quickly with a decisive 62-35 win over Morristown.

“I guess after that game against Triton Central we had a group of hungry kids ready to try to get back on track,” Eastern Hancock head coach Shari Doud said. “They did a nice job, and I think they shared the ball well.”

Nine different Royals scored at least two points, and the starting five contributed 49 points overall, including 25 of the team’s 27 in the second quarter, to improve the program’s season record to 3-1.

“I think we were more focused tonight because we didn’t play well and weren’t really up to par against Triton Central,” Royals’ freshman starting guard Sammie Bolding said. “Right now, I don’t think the chemistry is there just yet, but hopefully as the season goes on we will become more connected.”

With five freshmen on the varsity roster, the Royals are starting four underclassmen — two sophomores — and two of their five sets of siblings in the Stapletons and Boldings.

Sammie Bolding had nine points in the victory, while her older sister, Emma, a sophomore added eight points and seven rebounds. Emma shot 3-of-6 from the field with six points dropping thru the net in the second quarter.

Caroline Stapleton, the starting five’s elder as a junior, provided two points, two steals and three assists, and Grace Stapleton shot 5-of-9 from the floor with nine points in the first half and four rebounds in total.

“We’re that kind of team that can explode one quarter, and then, against Triton Central, we’re that team that can have a two-point second quarter with open looks,” Doud said.

Eastern Hancock struggled, shooting 30 percent from the field against Triton Central this past weekend and trailed 35-20 by halftime.

Against Morristown (1-1), the Royals led 9-5 after the first quarter, and then they went on a 27-3 run prior to halftime fueled by Ruby White and Grace Stapleton. Eastern Hancock shot 54 percent in the first half and 49 percent in the game.

The Stapleton-White duo combined for 21 points in the first half and 12 in the second quarter. Stapleton routinely found White in the post, giving the Royals’ tallest player room to operate around the basket.

“Ruby is gifted. Not only does she have the size, she’s got right- and left-handed skills. She’s got finishing touch around the basket. She has long arms, and she’s just a freshman that won’t be 15 until, I think, March,” Doud said.

“The future is super, brilliantly bright for her here. Physically, she’s only going to get stronger, so that’s definitely a weapon. We have 6-foot in there with a wingspan, more than likely longer than 6-foot. It’s nice to utilize.”

Stapleton and White both played several games together at the middle-school level along with freshmen Brooklyn Willis, Sydney Springman, Makenzie O’Neal and Sammie Bolding. Not to mention the team’s three sophomores.

Willis chipped in two points. Junior Anna White, Ruby’s older sister, had three points off the bench, and sophomore Alivia Coffin-Gutierrez had six points on 2-of-4 shooting.

“We took good shots, and that’s always pleasing to see from a coaching standpoint, when you know you have several kids that can score, and none of them try to force anything selfishly,” Doud said. “I thought they did a nice job with sharing the ball.”

Emma Bolding opened the second half with a steal and a transition layup to put the Royals up 38-11 before a Sammie Bolding steal and bucket gave Eastern Hancock its largest lead at 46-14.

Grace Stapleton converted 3-of-5 jumpers from 3-point range. Overall, the Royals buried four 3-pointers and dominated the defensive glass with 24 rebounds to minimize Morristown’s second-chance shots.

Ruby White finished with nine rebounds as the Royals followed up their 27-point second quarter with 10 points in the third and 16 in the fourth.

“Anyone of those kids can lead us in scoring,” Doud said. “I’m still concerned about our defensive awareness and intensity, though. I’m happy coming away with how unselfish we were with the basketball, but there were too many turnovers.”

Morristown cut the deficit to 24 points in the second half behind 13 turnovers by the Royals. In the first half, the Royals pressured the Yellow Jackets into 14 turnovers and used those to generate transition opportunities.

Rylee Kleine led the Yellow Jackets with 13 points. Emma Theobald had nine, and Raegan Kleine had six.

“We still have a lot of polishing to do on the defensive end. I’m a defensive-minded coach, so that’s still something of concern for me,” Doud said.

In regards to the team’s loss to potential Sectional 42 opponent Triton Central, neither Doud or the players are overthinking the setback.

“We played them early, and we know what they got, and they’re in our sectional,” Doud said. “In all likelihood, we’ll play them again in sectional. It was a good test and a very humbling experience, but that’s OK at this point in the season for them to be humbled because it showed them things they needed to work harder on.”